Sunday, October 17, 2004
Political Responses to the Redeployment

The United States has requested that a small number of British troops are redeployed to a position outside of their zone of control, placing them under US command. This has resulted in a welter of complaints from the Tories, the Liberal Democrats and anti-war Labour MPs that such a move has been motivated by the political strategies of the Bush administration. This has now forced Hoon to issue a parliamentary statement on this subject.

The addition of the US election as a factor in this deployment has politicised the whole move. The Sunday Telegraph reported that the move was opposed by General Sir Michael Walker although it is unclear if he was concerned by the use of our reserve in Iraq to support the Americans or by the alleged political motivations involved.

Gen Walker, the most senior officer in the Armed Forces, is said to be concerned that the Army should not be "bounced" into sending troops into Baghdad simply because the Americans have sustained more casualties than the British.

A Ministry of Defence official said that the Chief of the Defence Staff and other senior officers were worried that deploying the Black Watch, which is the divisional reserve for southern Iraq, to Baghdad would leave British troops vulnerable to another uprising by insurgents.

It is unclear if this move is an operational or a political matter. However, the powers of coincidence fail to explain why this story arose at the same time as the visit of Michael Howard to the headquarters of the Black Watch in Perth. Certain quarters may have viewed this as an opportunity to publicise the government's willingness for using the military to further its political ends. Who knows?

There is clear evidence that the government has suborned the intelligence services to further its objectives, compromising their independence with the willing participation of some of their members. Is the same struggle taking place in the Armed Forces, as commanders juggle defence and cutbacks, whilst opposing actions that put their men's lives at risk? They are certainly leaking to the press....

A senior Army officer said: "There is a certain amount of concern that this is a politically driven military operation and that does not rest easily with soldiers.

"Soldiers accept that they have to undertake dangerous operations in war, they accept that they might be killed or injured, but it is completely unacceptable if they are being sent to Baghdad to help George Bush win the next election."

(22.50, 17th October 2004)


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